“The evident deduction,” I said, “is that Dexter stole the slipper from the Museum—God knows with what purpose—and that Hassan of Aleppo recovered it from him.”
“You think we shall next hear of Earl Dexter from the river police?” suggested Bristol.
“Personally,” replied the Commissioner, “I agree with Mr. Cavanagh. I think Dexter is dead, and it is very probable that Hassan and Company are already homeward bound with the slipper of the Prophet.”
With all my heart I hoped that he might be right, but an intuition was with me crying that he was wrong, that many bloody deeds would be, ere the sacred slipper should return to the East.
The manner in which we next heard of the whereabouts of the Prophet’s slipper was utterly unforeseen, wildly dramatic. That the Hashishin were aware that I, though its legal trustee, no longer had charge of the relic nor knowledge of its resting-place, was sufficiently evident from the immunity which I enjoyed at this time from that ceaseless haunting by members of the uncanny organization ruled by Hassan. I had begun to feel more secure in my chambers, and no longer worked with a loaded revolver upon the table beside me. But the slightest unusual noise in the night still sufficed to arouse me and set me listening intently, to chill me with dread of what it might portend. In short, my nerves were by no means recovered from the ceaseless strain of the events connected with and arising out of the death of my poor friend, Professor Deeping.
One evening as I sat at work in my chambers, with the throb of busy Fleet Street and its thousand familiar sounds floating in to me through the open windows, my phone bell rang.
Even as I turned to take up the receiver a foreboding possessed me that my trusteeship was no longer to be a sinecure. It was Bristol who had rung me up, and upon very strange business.
“A development at last!” he said; “but at present I don’t know what to make of it. Can you come down now?”
“Where are you speaking from?”
“From the Waterloo Road—a delightful neighbourhood. I shall be glad if you can meet me at the entrance to Wyatt’s Buildings in half an hour.”
“What is it? Have you found Dexter?”
“No, unfortunately. But it’s murder!”
I knew as I hung up the receiver that my brief period of peace was ended; that the lists of assassination were reopened. I hurried out through the court into Fleet Street, thinking of the key of the now empty case at the Museum which reposed at my bankers, thinking of the devils who pursued the slipper, thinking of the hundred and one things, strange and terrible, which went to make up the history of that gruesome relic.